It started with the yarn.
Back in the summer, I decided to treat myself and become a Magpie Fiber Society member. What’s that you ask? Magpie Fibers is a multi-racial, woman owned and ran yarn dyer located in Frederick, Maryland. If you are a fiber artist and you’ve not yet had the pleasure of working with yarn from Magpie Fibers, you don’t know what you’re missing! I’ve fallen in love with their Swanky Sock and Swanky DK. Each a blend of 80% superwashed Merino, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon, they’re soft and scrumptious and knit up beautifully.
The Society box is a subscription with limited membership that comes out every other month. It includes two skeins of specially dyed yarn along with a surprise, like cute stitch markers and also includes a member’s discount on additional skeins and other perks. Every other month I get to support a woman owned business in my home state and receive wonderful yarn. Win, win.
One of the choices for the yarn in the November box was this gorgeous speckle on Magpie’s Swanky DK base. A warm taupe with speckles of teal, burnt orange and magenta, it called my name.
Choosing A Pattern
But what to make with it? I scrolled through pattern after pattern on Ravelry and came across a recently released pattern by a designer I follow and admire, Thea Colman. Named Western Rose, it’s designed to be knit in a DK weight yarn and has a two color slipped stich pattern on the lower third of the body. The sample was knit with Harrisville Designs Nightshades, as the main color. For the contrast, the sample used Spincycle Dream State, a yarn dyed to slowly change color as you knit. I thought, perfect! I can switch it up and use the speckle for the main color and pick up a solid skein of Swanky DK for the contrast color from my local yarn shop (LYS).
A Sleeve Can Be A Swatch, Right?
I ordered extra skeins of the speckle to have enough yardage for the sweater and waited for my box to arrive in November. As soon as it arrived, I wound two of the skeins into balls. Eager to begin, I decided since the pattern for Western Rose has you knit the sleeves first, I’d knit up one using the recommended sized needle, block it and use that as my swatch. Usually, I tend to be spot on with my gauge but not this time. The first sleeve knit up quickly but when I wet blocked it, the gauge was off. I needed to go up a needle size.
Oh well, no problem. I’d knit the second sleeve with a larger needle and then unravel the first and knit it again with the correct needle size. I’d be back on track in no time. Besides hoping to finish the sweater in time to wear for Christmas, I couldn’t wait to get the sleeves finished so I could begin the real fun: knitting the body of the sweater with its slipped stich color-work. I had taken a skein of the speckled yarn to my LYS and picked out a skein of Swanky DK in “Soiree”, a lovely magenta. It would “pop” against the main background as well as pick up the magenta speckles in the main color yarn.
Or so I thought.
When I started the body with its colorwork pattern, I was excited. But after knitting about 10 rows of the pattern, excitement turned to concern. The speckled yarn looked lovely. The magenta contrast yarn looked vibrant. But the flower pattern didn’t pop the way I thought it would. Could there be too many speckles? I told myself, perhaps I just needed to knit a few more rows to see the pattern better. Sadly, no. I knit one full repeat of the 32 row pattern and it still wasn’t working. The flowers were getting lost amidst the speckles.
Crap. A sweater essentially half knit and it wasn’t looking as I had envisioned. Thea Colman designed a lovely sweater but this yarn, with all its speckles, just wasn’t a good fit. I knew if I continued and finished the sweater, it would bother me so much that I’d most likely never wear it. It would end up stuck in a drawer and that would be a sad fate for such beautiful yarn.
Choosing A Pattern – Round Two
Discouraged and a bit annoyed with myself, I went back online to search for another sweater pattern, hopefully one that would better match the yarn. I knew a simple, raglan sweater would work but felt this yarn deserved a more special design. I searched for DK weight patterns that used two colors, wanting to still use the magenta contrast color. And that’s when I stumbled upon Barocco by Stella Egidi. Like Western Rose, it too has a two color slipped stitch pattern, but on the yoke instead of the body. However, the two color slipped stitch pattern on Western Rose is flat, being knit solely in stockinette. Barocco, a design inspired by the richly decorated ceilings of the centuries old Italian Barocco style, is textured, with twisted stitches and baubles. Those twisted stitches would cause the contrast color to sit atop the main color helping the magenta to pop and not be swallowed by the speckles. Knit from the top down, after the yoke, the body is an A-line shape in a simple stockinette stitch. The speckles could then shine and would be offset by magenta trim at the cuffs and hem.
I set about unraveling the body of Western Rose and rewound the yarn into balls. I knit a swatch in the round, wet blocked it to check my gauge and then began knitting the sweater on December 23, 2020. This time, I could see right away that the magenta yarn was standing out perfectly. The yoke, with its colorwork and twist stitches, looks more complicated than it is to knit and was done quickly.
Before I knew it, I was past the yoke and doing the increases to form the A-line shape of the body. Swanky DK knits has a nice drape when it knits up, a perfect fit for this design.
Barocco, the sweater I hadn’t planned to make, was finished on Jan. 11, 2021, my first FO of the new year. It’s quickly become one of my favorite items in my wardrobe. Western Rose is back in the queue. I hope to make it for the Fall, with a more pattern appropriate yarn.
- Even when the pattern calls for a swatch in stockinette, if there’s colorwork, do the swatch in the colorwork pattern to see how it works with the yarn. Had I done that, I would have seen the problem sooner.
- Unraveling and starting over can sometimes be the best decision to make. It can even lead to a new adventure.
Have you ever been in the middle of a project only to discover it just wasn’t going to work? If so, tell me about it in the comments!
Next week: my first venture into test knitting.